“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Anybody ever had a toke of “Tokyo”?

Posted: October 13th, 2014 | 22 Comments »

So series 1 of the excellent Birmingham gang saga Peaky Blinders featured a hyper realised Chinatown and a plenty of sucking on the good old style opium pipe. But now in series 2 we’re in the mid-1920s and we’re in London and the boys are snorting back long lines of “Tokyo”, which we can safely assume to be cocaine. OK, cocaine was a big 1920s drug and London nightclubs were the place to get into it, but ” Tokyo”? I’ve never heard that slang name for coke and I think I’ve heard most – anyone?

According to the programme notes for Peaky Blinders series 2, in an interview with Colm McCarthy, the director, he claims, “Tokyo is the street name for cocaine at the time” (the time being 1924). I can’t find any references to Tokyo as a slang name for coke in the 1920s in either the UK or US so I’m thinking this is made up – bit, if so, why, it’s not as if cocaine hasn’t got enough slang names from the period.

Anyway, just being anal as ever I suppose – it’s all great TV!


The boys have come down to London…and got a taste for a line of “Tokyo”….


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22 Comments on “Anybody ever had a toke of “Tokyo”?”

  1. 1 dimi said at 9:20 am on October 23rd, 2014:

    Is it possibly a play on china white? Which is known slang for coke in the UK as o posed to the us where it refers to a fenatyl

    Bearing in mind that it was refered to as something for doping horses it wouldn’t be cocaine on its own anyway.

    It is probably going to be a custom mix from one of the Chinese drug dealers broadly speaking a mix of coke stryicnine amphetamine and morphine.
    I will have a look at uni and search the research on language etymology and see what I find

  2. 2 Frank said at 3:13 am on November 25th, 2014:

    China white is slang for he

  3. 3 Frank said at 3:13 am on November 25th, 2014:

    China white is slang for heroin not cocaine

  4. 4 Frank said at 3:17 am on November 25th, 2014:

    And since this is a fictional story…i think maybe they just made up there own slang….i didn’t know if it was coke or dope either…thats why i looked it up…I’m thinking it’s just a name they came up with for coke…but i would also like an exact answer as to Why there calling it Tokyo

  5. 5 cm2881 said at 8:24 am on November 27th, 2014:

    It’s Cocaine, for those who don’t know you don’t get high from Heroine but you do get a lot of energy and want to party and feel like a 12 foot man when you snort Cocaine. It is awesome

  6. 6 CasladinHI said at 1:47 pm on December 9th, 2014:

    I just read that tokyo rose was slang for nose, which would make sense…..

  7. 7 Santjordi said at 3:11 pm on January 7th, 2015:

    I believe it is British rhyming slang – Cocaine ==> Coke ==> Toke ==> Tokyo

  8. 8 michael mcneely said at 9:19 am on January 11th, 2015:

    one of the first chemists to synthesize methamphetamine was Japanese. In the series Tommy points out to Arther that Tokyo is used on race horses. I belive that “Tokyo” is slang for any kind of speed.

  9. 9 thehead1138 said at 4:47 am on January 13th, 2015:

    And the best answer goes too!… Mr. McNeely and Mr. Santjordi. I just asked my dad, who was a Bobby (cop) in the 1950’s, in London, and who’se dad (my Granddad) was a Bobby in the 1920’s. Both spoke Cockney fluently, Tokyo was the slang for Coke, Meth, too much sugar… Pretty much anything that gave you crazy energy!

  10. 10 Jackrafter said at 2:10 pm on August 17th, 2015:

    It’s in Birmingham not London they’re two very different cities. Although some of the second series is based in London it’s in Brum (birmingham) were they sniff coke

  11. 11 Gman82 said at 9:51 am on March 31st, 2016:

    Surely if its used for doping horses its ketamine not cocaine right???

  12. 12 paul French said at 4:43 pm on March 31st, 2016:

    Except that, according to Wikipedia, ketamine wasn’t discovered until 1962

  13. 13 Itsdavid82 said at 4:40 am on April 14th, 2016:

    If you’re doping a horse you’re going to use a stimulant not a tranquilliser though. So suspect it probably is slang for coke/speed.

  14. 14 Stu dent said at 3:44 pm on September 27th, 2017:

    That Dimi guy is a clueless twat if he thinks cocaine is called fetanyol in American. Feyanyol is a completely different drug. In fact it’s in a completely different category. Cocaine is an upper where as Fet is an opiate and therefore a downer.

  15. 15 TriggerPullerUSMC said at 3:45 am on December 29th, 2017:

    In Birmingham and other parts of the UK they have this weird rhyming slang. For example, dickie bird is cockney rhyming slang for word as in if they arrest that dude he won’t say a dickie bird.

    Tokyo Rose is rhyming slang for primarily a mixture of coke, meth, morphine. Other variants exist but those are the base chems.

    To the guy who said it must be ketamine since it was used on horses- problem with that is ketamine wasn’t invented until early 1960s.

    Anyhow, I spent a good deal of time training with Brit Royal Marine Commandoes and others so I learned some of the slang and when I saw Peaky Blinders it occurred to me that Toyko Rose for the nose is probably part of that.

  16. 16 Clee said at 1:12 pm on January 13th, 2018:

    Outside of medical literature I don’t think i’ve ever seen anyone spell “fentanyl” properly lol. @Stu dent, he was suggesting that “china white” is a slang term for fentanyl in the states which is correct. The slang usually refers to the more pure forms of heroin imported from the middle east/asia and africa to differentiate it from the “black tar” acetylated opium gum derived from Mexico

  17. 17 Lewis said at 3:23 pm on January 25th, 2018:

    Tokyo rose was a name given by Allied troops in the South Pacific during World War II to all female English-speaking radio broadcasters of Japanese propaganda, it first appeared in U.S. newspapers in the context of these radio programs in 1943

    I’m pretty sure a term created by the newspapers in America in the 40s was used to describe a drug in Birmingham in the 20s

    Arnot, Charles P. (June 22, 1943). “American Submarines Have Sunk 230 Japanese Ships in Pacific”. Brainerd Daily Dispatch. p. 6. We were tuned in on Radio Tokyo when Tokyo Rose, the woman who broadcasts in English, came on the air with “Hello America … You build ’em, we sink ’em…”

  18. 18 Brother said at 6:46 am on February 18th, 2018:

    Yes even today in the Brasil, they use an expression called “teko” that sounds likely tokio.

  19. 19 E. Hall said at 6:45 am on September 11th, 2018:

    As someone who has had more than their share of all of the drugs you could shoot or snort I assumed it was some kind of speed. Not crystal meth, but along those lines…

  20. 20 E.Hall said at 6:53 am on September 11th, 2018:

    I googled to see if anyone knows for sure, but I assumed it wasn’t cocaine because Tommy said they give it to the horses to race. I mean that could have been a euphemism for something, but if not and they do give it to horses, cocaine wouldn’t make sense. Crystal meth is a more recent thing, and ketamine is a horse tranquilizer. Just my thoughts as a former heavy drug user, and a person who’s bff lives in Birmingham

  21. 21 Josie said at 4:12 am on September 11th, 2019:

    That woman from Tokyo, Deep Purple – just watching Peaky Blinders and wonder if there was a connection with the white stuff and Deep Purple Lyrics,

  22. 22 Ledga said at 3:12 pm on August 22nd, 2020:

    It “should” be PCP. It was founded by then, and Churchill mentions cocaine earlier in season 1. It was founded as veterinary medicine, much like Ketamine. I mean, Finn introduced it to Arthur, how does a gangster/soldier not know what cocaine is?

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